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A Music Lover’s Guide to the Tom Tom Founders Festival 2016

The music musts of this year’s festival.

If you are a music lover in Charlottesville, it’s time to get excited – the Tom Tom Founders Festival has arrived. And this year is going to be better than ever.

Held from April 11-17, the Founders Fest brings dozens of world-class musicians and can’t-miss bands to downtown Charlottesville. But it isn’t your typical music festival. Tom Tom also features events showcasing creativity in food, art, and entrepreneurship. It has something for just about everyone and the best part? Most events are free to attend.

The opportunity to see so many talented musicians without breaking the bank makes the Tom Tom Founders Festival a can’t-miss opportunity. However, with dozens of events taking place in over 60 venues, the schedule can be rather overwhelming at first glance. So, to help out, I’m breaking down some of the best music events the festival has to offer this week.


Tuesday April 12th

Boyd Tinsley with Crystal Garden: The Paramount Theater 8:30pm-10pm

Kicking of the week is Grammy award-winning violinist Boyd Tinsley. You may know him as one of the founding members of Dave Matthew Band, but tonight he will be debuting his new project, Crystal Garden. The band is a super-group of world-class musicians hand selected from across the country. They are a self-proclaimed rock band, but one with distinct jazz and jam-band influences.

The show is at the Paramount Theater from 8:30pm-10pm tonight and is family friendly. It is free to attend but tickets must be obtained on the Tom Tom website ahead of time.

boyd tinsley
Boyd Tinsley

Thursday April 14th

Club Tom Tom (A Silent Disco) – Old Metropolitan Hall 10pm-12am

For those looking for a more high-energy dance oriented scene, Club Tom Tom has you covered. This Thursday night event is a silent disco, meaning attendees listen to music individually through wireless headsets. There are three different genres from which to choose, but all are danceable and meant to get you partying. Although quiet, the atmosphere at Club Tom Tom is electrifying. Party-goers donned in neon glow sticks will let loose with their headsets under flashing disco lights.

Club Tom Tom is Thursday the 14th from 10pm-12am. Event tickets are $15 and can be purchased on the Tom Tom website.

Friday April 15th

Block Party – Lee Park 5:30pm-11pm

The Block Party, held this Friday Night at Lee Park, is one of the Founder Festival’s marquee events. There will be tons of food, art, exhibitions, and best of all: a lot of excellent music. Four incredible bands will be playing from 5:30pm –11pm and there will be something for everyone. What Up English, hailing from Tennessee, will kick things off with a set of catchy and danceable southern rock. Following is the mesmerizing Richmond artist Sam Reed. If you love Funk, R&B, and Soul, Reed is a can’t miss act with an incredible voice. Also from Richmond, The Deems play next and are sure to impress with their unique blend of reggae, funk, and psychedelic rock.

My top pick for Friday is the Block Party closer: a high-energy and funky rock-n-roll group from Vermont called Gang of Thieves. They play from 9:30pm–10:45pm and may be one of the most exciting artists of the festival. Nominated by the New England Music Award for the “2013 Rock Act of the Year,” the band is known for its electrifying, live performances and captivating stage presence. Their show Friday should be an incredible time for all.

gang of thieves
Gang of Thieves

Saturday April 16th

Block Party – Lee Park 12pm-7pm

The excitement of Friday only gets bigger on Saturday as another Lee Park block party promises even more great music and activities over the course of the day. Local Charlottesville jazz-rockers Gina Sobel and the Mighty Fine kick things off, Following them are countless other top-notch bands, some of which include another Charlottesville fixture, alternative-rockers New Boss as well as The Dawn Drapes, an indie rock trio from Harrisonburg. Following both will be Murphy’s Kids, a reggae ska-punk group out of Richmond.

But two events really stand out to me in Lee Park on Saturday:

First is Major and The Monbacks, who play Lee Park from 5pm-6 pm. Hailing from Norfolk, this eight-piece southern rock band features some incredibly talented musicians and always puts on a great show. They have a unique sound that mixes folk and psychedelic rock and they play with incredible energy. If you haven’t seen the Monbacks play live, this show cannot be missed.

Immediately following the Monbacks’ show is a sunset concert with two amazing bands: Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds and The Big Takeover. Sister Sparrow plays blues with a little bit of funk and is quickly gaining a nationwide fan base. They feature a unique sound and energetic live performances. Following them, The Big Takeover plays an innovative fusion of reggae and funk. Their upbeat music is perfect for what should be a beautiful sunset at Lee Park on Saturday night.

the big takeover
The Big Takeover

Metal Showcase – Champion Brewery 6pm-11pm

Also on Saturday, Champion Brewery will be hosting heavy metal rock shows all evening for fans of rock that’s a little harder. Headlining the event at 10pm will be thrash-metal rockers Ramming Speed.

Sunday April 17th

Lee Park – Picnic Day 1pm-8pm

The last day of the Founders Festival features a picnic in Lee Park showcasing even more excellent artists. Most of Sundays acts will be local bands including bluegrass group The Weedeaters, rockers Post Meridian, blues duo Born Crooked, and Americana band  The Hogwaller Ramblers.

For Picnic Day, I highly recommend catching the two shows closing the evening. First is Second Draw, which plays from 5:40pm-6:40pm. They are a jam-band with bluegrass, country, and rock influences and trilling live performances. Secondly, closing the Picnic from 6:50pm-8pm, is Erin and The Wildfire. This electrifying group has taken Charlottesville by storm with their innovative sound and charismatic presence. Combining blues, rock, and bluegrass influences in a unique way, this group cannot be missed.

Erin and the Wildfir
Erin and the Wildfire

Porchella – Belmont Neighborhood 6pm-10pm

Finally, The Tom Tom Founders Festival comes to a close with one of the most unique events of the week: Porchella. From 6pm-10pm, ten residential homes in the Belmont neighborhood will be transformed into music venues. Patrons can stroll between porches and lawns to hear great music gather with fellow festival-goers. All the bands will be acoustic and the event promises an evening of good vibes for all.

Porchella Map for Sunday's Event
Porchella Map for Sunday’s Event

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